Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, November 28, 2005 edition, page S1/5.

When Mike Defensor proclaimed the Hello Garci issue closed, and Norberto Gonzales countered that only Virgilio Garcillano himself could close it, and Eduardo Ermita followed up with an appeal for a Christmas ceasefire on the conflict stemming from Gloria Arroyo’s illegitimacy; it was obvious something was up. And, sure enough, Garci turned up.

The trio set the stage for Garci to resurface and say that Mrs. Arroyo did not ask him to cheat. Garci has a reputation as the most honest and upright election official ever; so the last person Mrs. Arroyo would appoint and reappoint to cheat for her would be Garci. Right?

Garci will not talk about who facilitated his escape to Singapore. He might claim he never left the country, or he might say he went back to Mindanao immediately after Singapore but he will deny any link between his flight and Mrs. Arroyo. However, it’s obvious Garci was brought back by his phone pal in a desperate attempt to put an end to the Hello Garci controversy.

Why would Mrs. Arroyo gamble everything on Garci’s testimony? Because the Hello Garci controversy refuses to die a natural death, and she has run out of ways to kill it. Gag orders, the aborted impeachment, calibrated preemptive response (CPR), Executive Order # 464, newspaper ads, user-friendly journalists, and every other weapon in her arsenal has failed. Bringing back Garci to lie is Arroyo’s last option.

Anyone who doubts that Mrs. Arroyo is behind Garci’s return should read Gabriel Claudio’s statements on the subject. They segue seamlessly from the first act of the moro-moro initiated by Defensor, Gonzales and Ermita. Claudio said:

“We feel confident and we are happy that on their own volition, the Garcillanos have decided to come back to the Philippines to put closure to the political problems and crises that we have been facing.

“This is something that does not need the prompting of anybody. He (Garci) need not be intimidated or coerced. I don’t think he needs to be badgered about what to do.

“Our appeal to the opposition is for them to cut their cynicism. It’s unfair for them to accuse the government or anybody else having to do with his reappearance..We have no idea what he will say. We have no intention whatsoever to influence what he’s going to say, to influence his testimony or even to get in touch with him.”

There are only two things that Claudio is pushing, and neither one is believable. Garci will tell the truth? Gloria Arroyo had nothing to do with Garci’s escape or return?

To use part of Claudio’s phrase, “What is important is the man whom everybody regards as the one who can answer questions about the alleged conversations in the Garci tapes” must answer all questions about his great escape first before he talks about those Hello Garci tapes. Answer prejudicial questions first, as Edcel Lagman used to say in the impeachment.

Let’s not waste time on Garci’s interpretation of the Hello Garci tapes. We heard the tapes and we can judge for ourselves. For now, let’s focus on who facilitated Garci’s trip to Singapore, his return to the Philippines, where he was, and how he was able to support himself financially over the past five months. A day-to-day account of his activities and whereabouts from July 14 onwards is what we want to hear from him. We don’t need to mud-wrestle over something we already know.

By the way, Claudio also said, “He (Garci) and he alone can write the finish to this.”   So Garci might want to ask his handlers whether Gloria will stick with him, or let him twist slowly in the wind.